Sweet talk, toy soldiers and postage stamps
Happy Christmas and holidays from the Darwin Stamp Zoo team.
Much of our Modern Christmas dates back to Victorian times and Mr Dickens. Darwin is known to have read early Dickens books with his young wife Emma. Darwin was very much a family man, and loved playing with his children. (Read Annie’s Box by Randal Keynes and weep!) He was far from the stern, strict, distant , dictatorial Victorian dad we typecast Victorian men as being.
As well as collecting Christmas stamps and Christmas cards (invented by Henry Cole in the 1840s) you could spend your Christmas telling or reading ghost stories, watch a Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens at the cinema (invented by Victorians) or look out for Oliver! on television. There are Cranford Christmas specials (Victorian 1840s Northern life by Mrs. Gaskell) or the wonderful BBC Victorian Farm series of Christmas specials.
As with Darwin, there are lots of stamp issues of Dickens and a bicentenary coming up in 2012. Another chance to use the Darwin stamp book resource and teaching tips – Dickens and Darwin make a fascinating comparison timeline of rich and poor.
To keep busy at Christmas, three ideas from the Darwin Stamp Zoo team
adapted from the DFEE / DCSF parents as partners leaflets
Recipe and ideas adapted by the Darwin 200 stamp zoo team from http:// www.parents.dfee.gov.uk/discover (original weblink sadly no longer available)
Victorian children didn’t have radios, TVs, videos or computers – they had to make their own entertainment. Your child might be surprised how many familiar toys and games date back to Victorian times.
Street games were popular with poorer Victorian children, including hopscotch, football and clapping and skipping games. Middle-class children played with hobby-horses, dolls, toy soldiers, and paints and wax crayons. Board games like ‘Ludo’ and ‘Snakes and Ladders’ were also well-liked.
Why don’t you and your child have a Victorian games day? Try managing without any modern forms of entertainment and play with more traditional toys and games.
- What did you both enjoy most about the day?
- What did you find difficult?
Many people in Victorian times lived in homes without any of the modern comforts we take for granted today. People had to manage without central heating or hot water from the tap – instead they had open fires and heated water on a big cooker called a range. Without vacuum cleaners or washing machines, looking after the home was very hard work.
Help your child to imagine what it would have been like to live in Victorian times.
• How would they like to have a bath in a metal tub in front of the kitchen fire?
• What would it be like to have to go to the toilet outside after dark?
• How would they like playing with toy soldiers instead of computer games? Would they enjoy having to do some sewing instead of watching T V ?
Go around the house with your child and make a list of all the things that Victorian families wouldn’t have had. Then talk with them about what people in Victorian times might have used to do the same job.
Richer Victorian housewives had plenty of different types of food to choose from and some famous recipe books to help them – one of the best known was by Mrs Beeton.
Here is a Victorian recipe for Gingerbread Men – a treat still enjoyed by children today. Why don’t you try making this?
Darwin Stamp Zoo’s Recipe for GINGERBREAD POST MEN or GINGERBREAD DARWINS
- 250g self-raising flour
- a knob of butter
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 egg white
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- raisins/candied peel
- icing (optional)
1. Heat the oven to 180°C (gas mark 4).
2. Mix everything except the raisins/peel in a bowl.
3. When the ingredients have come together into a solid mixture, roll it out onto a floured surface.
4. Cut into shapes using a gingerbread cutter. How about postmen, square postage stamps, pillar boxes, letters and other Victorian shapes or images?
5. Use the raisins and peel to make eyes and noses.
6. Bake the biscuits on a greased tray for 10 to 15 minutes.
7. When cool, eat or decorate with icing (optional). A nice white beard for Mr Darwin perhaps.
To avoid suitably Victorian hygiene and health and safety issues and avoid a trip to your local hospital (probably established in Victorian times), be careful when working with hot ovens and baking trays.
Clean your hands before cooking and eating. You’re not a Victorian street urchin!